Thursday, May 22, 2008

Grantwriters & Attorneys

Earlier in the week, I got a preliminary bid from one of the grantwriters I had spoken to: $7000! Um... yeah, really. Granted, it's likely the state would cover about 40% of that via a grant program to support new technology businesses, but... uh... From a guy (with a PhD) who recently worked 15 weeks, at least 24 hours/week, teaching two courses at a university, for a paltry $7700, it's rather difficult to justify paying someone else that kind of money to handle a bit of editing and formatting and assuring that electronic submission goes through for a grant proposal (okay, two actually, but they're quite related). The proposal was a flat-rate-fee, ostensibly based on the assumption of 70 hours of work ($100/hr with a comfy buffer I'm sure-- Not bad.) There are numerous things I could do with that 4 grand out of my pocket, not the least of which concerns living expenses for my family for about a month!

Now, I'm not banking on failure, and one approach might be to simply buck it up, fork over the cash, and hope for the best. But I've quite a bit of confidence in my own grantwriting skills. In fact, the grantwriter wouldn't really be writing the grant in any case. It's my research. I'm in for writing the technical proposal (the bulk of the application) either way. So what would that $7000 cover? Not quite sure. Formatting and editing mostly. Sure, that's all a pain in the ass, but I've handled the like before. I think of Lilian's recent drama with submitting her dissertation.

I've taken the tack that I'll just plan to do it all myself, and if I get a bit stressed or derailed, I can always call up one of those folks and say Hey, I've gotten this far, can you help me get it all in? What would that run me? [Reality dictates: I've been under deadlines before; more than likely I'll just pull through.]

My mind's actually a bit more at ease after my latest meeting with a patent attorney yesterday, and my reviewing of disclaimers on the grant submission website. Deal is, the submission itself is treated confidentially, so there's little threat that submitting a grant proposal would constitute public disclosure, thus my patent rights and IP security are retained. All of which means, there's no rush for me to file a patent application (even a provisional one) prior to preparing and submitting these grant proposals.

That said, I've got about three weeks to focus entirely (at least professionally) on preparing those grant apps. And, I remind myself: I don't need these. It'd sure be nice to get one or the other (or both) of them, to validate my approach, and to put some money in the firm's coffers. But we've got a couple years or so before we've got to worry about revenue. I'm utterly convinced that everything will fall into place.

This gives me some breathing room to concentrate on clarifying my ideas, explaining how they solve real world problems. These grant proposals are different from ones I've done in the past, in that I'm not trying to figure a way to fit my research into their expectations, I'm merely finding topics of their interest that I'm already working on, and writing up a proposal that says this is what I'm doing, and hey it solves the problems you're posing. It's a really good feeling!

And that breathing room allows me to work on some other funding avenues as well. I'll be talking with a couple county and regional development representatives next week, to discuss what's available to me in getting this venture up and running. It's quite possible I'll qualify for a state grant/loan program that puts up funds for third-party services (like patent attorneys?), equipment, and staff (but not my salary), with the proviso that it gets paid back as a loan on easy terms if the venture succeeds, and possibly gets forgiven if commercialization fails. That may put me in the awkward position of paying employees more in salary and benefits than I've ever had the honor to receive.

I can't say for sure what will happen, but it's not out of the question that I'll have a couple full-time employees by the end of the summer. I've been alone on this journey professionally for quite a while. It'd be a relief to finally have some company, but it'll be odd as well, especially since it'll be my task to provide them with assignments, and to make sure that they remain busy and engaged. That'll take some thinking. Meantime, it's three weeks on these grants. We'll see from there.

1 comment:

Lilian said...

Oh wow... so much to think about and work on. I'm sure you can pull out the grant writing, you have, after all, written a Ph.D. dissertation, you can do this :-).